Korsching Lab


Institute for Genetics · Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences · University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 47a · 50674 Cologne · Germany
tel. 0049-221-470 4843 · fax. 0049-221-470 5172 · sigrun.korsching@uni-koeln.de


Sensation, perception and behavior in vertebrate olfaction

Smell is an ancient and complex sense essential for food detection, prey and predator recognition, reproduction and other intraspecies communication. Tens of thousands of different chemicals can be detected and distinguished by the olfactory system. Several olfactory receptor gene families, both small and large, contribute to the detection of odors. Monogenic expression and axonal convergence serve to generate a receptor map in the olfactory bulb. Labeled line as well as combinatorial coding of odors is observed.

To understand the perception of odors, it is essential to identify the various receptor repertoires, reveal the ligand spectra of individual olfactory receptors, understand the activation of receptors by their ligands, analyse the modification of the odor response by the circuitry of the olfactory bulb and higher brain centers, and examine the generation of behavior by these neural circuits. We employ an array of bioinformatic, molecularbiological, genetic, physiological and behavioral methods to study these questions, often using zebrafish as a vertebrate model system.

→ Publications

Group Members

Sigrun Korsching
Lab Head



1995 - present Professor at the Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, Germany.
1988 - 1995 Junior Group Leader, Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Tübingen, Germany.
1986 - 1988 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA.
1985 - 1986 Research Associate, Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie, München, Germany.
1984 - 1985 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie, München, Germany.

Scientific Honors

2020 – present Beirat des Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Fakultätentags (MNFT), Fachvertreter Biologie
2013 – 2020 EURON (European Graduate School for Neurosciences) local coordinator for Cologne
2009 - 2011 President of the German Neuroscience Society (NWG)
2007 - 2009 Vice President of the German Neuroscience Society (NWG)
1998 Top ranking grant as co-applicant in a Human Frontier Science Program Research Grant.
1988 George and Edna Lièvre Fellowship Award of the American Heart Association.
1985 Otto-Hahn-Medal of the Max-Planck-Society.


1996 Habilitation in "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" by the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Tübingen, Germany.
1994 Laboratory course "Imaging Structure and Function in the Nervous System", Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, NY, USA.
1984 Thesis, summa cum laude.
1982 Lecture course "Developmental Neurobiology" at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, NY, USA.
1981 - 1983 Graduate studies at the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry, Martinsried, Germany, thesis advisor Prof. Hans Thoenen.
1980 Diploma in Chemistry und Biochemistry (highest possible grade).
1979 - 1980 Undergraduate thesis at the Max-Planck-Institut for Psychiatry, Martinsried, Germany, scientific advisor Prof. Hans Thoenen.
1974 - 1979 Classes in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Ludwigs-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany.
1974 Entrance examination for the University at the Willi-Graf-Gymnasium in Munich with highest possible grades.

Scientific Societies

Society for Neuroscience, USA
German Neuroscience Society (Neurowissenschaftliche Gesellschaft, NWG)
The European Chemoreception Research Organisation (ECRO)

Management and administration

2017 - present Vice Dean for Gender, Diversity and Young Academics
2015 - 2017 Editorial Board 'Scientific Reports'
2015 - 2017 Member of the Inner Faculty of the Natural Sciences Faculty of the University at Cologne
2014 Editorial Board 'Chemical Senses'
2014 - present Acting Speaker, Graduate Program GRK 1960 'Neural Circuit Analysis on the cellular and subcellular level
2013 - present EURON (European Graduate School for Neurosciences) local coordinator for Cologne
2013 Organizer of the Cologne Spring Meeting 2013 'Neural circuits: Development, Function and Degeneration'
2011 Scientific Organizer and Program Committee chair of the 9th Göttingen Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society
2008 - 2015 Advisory board member, Priority Program 1392, Integrative analysis of olfaction, German Research Foundation
1997 - 2002 Member of the Inner Faculty of the Natural Sciences Faculty of the University at Cologne
1997 - 2001 Acting speaker of the Graduate Program GRK 296 'Genetics of Cellular Systems'.
1995 Organizer of the 'Olfactory Meeting Tübingen 1995' (international conference, 10 speaker, ca. 50 participants)

Life beyond science

Raising three kids is a world by itself. After a long lull I have taken up martial arts again. I read Terry Pratchett and Scott Westerfeld for fun and enjoy cyberspace discussions about science and ethics.

Kanika Sharma
Post Doc


Daniel Kowatschew
Post Doc


Asmaa Abu Obaid
PhD Student


Güneş Birdal
PhD Student


Shahzaib Hassan
PhD Student


Mehmet Saltürk
Lab Manager


Manish Tomar Postdoc
Adnan Syed Postdoc
Milan Dieris graduate student
Vladimir Shiryagin graduate student
Venkatesh S. Krishna graduate student
Sharzad Bozorg Nia graduate student
Ivan Ivandic graduate student Postdoc, UKB, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Gaurav Ahuja postdoc Postdoc, ZMMK, CECAD, Cologne
Veronika Zapilko postdoc Postdoc, Université de Genève, Département de médecine, Genf
Kristina Auerswald graduate student Teaching Coordinator, University at Cologne, Köln
Ashiq Hussain graduate student Postdoc, MPI, Martinsried
Yuichiro Oka postdoc Assistant professor, Osaka
Luis R. Saraiva graduate student ESPOD fellow, Wellcome Trust Sanger, Cambridge
Yen-Yen Kwan graduate student Biotechnologist, Felda Biotechnology Centre, Bandar Enstek
Aswani Kotagiri Kumar graduate student Postdoc, UCLA, Los Angeles
Sunil Kumar Sukumaran graduate student Research Associate, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia
Hans Ulrich Fried graduate student Head of Light Microscopic Facility, DZNE, Bonn
Verena Oehlmann graduate student Product Manager, Roche Pharma, Basel
Silke Argo graduate student Head of Management Office, National Genome Research Network, DKFZ, Heidelberg
Jun Li graduate student Global Clinical Development Operation, Merz Pharmaceuticals, Frankfurt
Stefan H. Fuss graduate student Associate Professor, Boǧaziçi, Istanbul
Arzu Celik graduate student Associate Professor, Boǧaziçi, Istanbul
Andreas Rummrich graduate student Department Head, Rheinische Akademie Köln, Cologne
Franco Weth graduate student Research Associate, KIT, Karlsruhe
Rainer W. Friedrich graduate student Senior Group leader and adjunct professor, FMI, Basel
Herwig Baier graduate student Max-Planck Director, Martinsried


Recent Publications

Publicatons 1990 – 2012

Older Publications (before 1990)



Journal Club

Every Friday, 10 am, we discuss a current publication somewhat related to our research interests. The usual location is Zülpichr Str. 47a, Seminar room 0.46, ground floor. Interested students are welcome to join.

Seminar: „Was ist Wissenschaft?”

Zeit und Ort nach Vereinbarung, Anmeldung per e-Mail: sigrun.korsching(at)uni-koeln.de
Für Lehramtsstudenten (Hauptstudium) geeignet.

Wissenschaft ist nicht definiert durch ihr Thema, die verwendeten Arbeitsmethoden, oder die Leute, die sie anwenden. In diesem Seminar geht es darum, wodurch Wissenschaft, genauer die wissenschaftliche Methodik, definiert ist. Es gibt Vorlesungen und praktische Übungen. Bei Bedarf kann ein Schwerpunkt auf die Umsetzung im Schulunterricht gelegt werden.

Buch zum Thema: Stephen S. Carey's Buch „A beginner's guide to Scientific Method”, 3rd edition, ISBN 0-534-58450-090000

Seminar: „The Scientific Method: an Introduction“

Time and place: by arrangement. Contact by e-Mail: sigrun.korsching(at)uni-koeln.de
Für Lehramtsstudenten (Hauptstudium) geeignet.

Science is not defined by topics, techniques of investigation, or the people employing it. In its core, science is a method. This seminar gives a definition of science and uses practical examples to teach good science and how to distinguish it from bad science and pseudoscience. The seminar comprises lectures and practical exercises.

Literature: Stephen S. Carey's book „A beginner's guide to Scientific Method”, 3rd edition, ISBN 0-534-58450-090000

MN-B-SM (NG 2) Masters module: Neurophysiology

Sensory Perception, Synaptic Transmission, Receptor Repertoires and Evolution

Taught together with Arnd Baumann and Natalia Kononenko. The module contains lectures; lab work (project work); seminar; computer exercises; guidance to independent research; training on presentation techniques in oral and written form.


Entwicklungsneurobiologie für Neurowissenschaftler (Bachelor)

Zweiwöchiges Blockmodul, welches die Grundprozesse neuronaler Differenzierung anhand ausgewählter Beispiele behandelt. Mit vertiefenden Übungen zur Vorlesung.

Further Teaching

Contribution to the teaching of the Genetics Institute.

Open Positions

Graduate Studies

The Korsching lab is a member of the Neuroscience Research Training Group (RTG 1960) "Neural Circuit Analysis on the Cellular and Subcellular Level". Additional funding may be available. Please inquire for possibilities.

Research Projects

Research projects at the Bachelor and Master level are possible. Please inquire about available time slots and topics.

Internships / Practical Courses

Internships (also for international students) and practical courses (elective modules) can be performed. All internships and practical courses will have novel research topics. Please inquire.